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MEA Changes Course on Common Core

The Common Core State Standards are part of Maine's Learning Results. The Maine DOE website says, "The Maine Learning Results were most recently updated in 2011 to include Common Core as the standards for English language arts and math, better preparing our students for success in college, career and civic life by creating deeper, more rigorous and clearer expectations for learning. The updated standards, adopted after a public process in 2011 and fully implemented in the 2013-14 school year, emphasize more complex content and concepts and the development of needed real-world skills like problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and communication..."

Throughout the 2013-14 school year MEA has been asking our members 1. if the CCSS have been fully implemented in their districts, 2. what the impact has been, including the resulting pilot of Smarter Balanced Assessments, and 3. what MEA should be doing to help our members cope.

As a result of input from our members, the MEA Board of Directors voted on Sunday, March 30 on a CCSS position for:

* The immediate end to the use of high-stakes standardized testing.

Why? MEA has been gathering information that the overuse and misuse of standardized testing is impacting the time teachers have to help students learn. This lack of student learning time and the overemphasis on "teaching to the test" is detrimental to our students both academically and emotionally. Some students can be given the NECAP in the fall, the NWEA in fall, winter and spring, NAEP bi-annually, and this year may be part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment pilot. In addition students are taking PSAT, SAT, and tests for specific needs - ELL, speech and language, learning disabilities. Our educators are questioning the value that all this data really has on the success and student growth of our students. We share this quote,"Believing we can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height." Robert Schaeffer of FairTest.

* A moratorium on the use of Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Why? We believe that until the Smarter Balanced Assessment has gone through the piloting and field testing process and has been proven to be an exemplary standardized test, Maine students should not be judged on the results, nor should teachers be evaluated on the results. Before our students and teachers are judged to determine success or failure, the assessment must be proven to pass rigorous validity and reliability criteria. But, in searching for research we found this information has not been published. Maine signed on to Smarter Balanced Assessments when they were only a name with little or nothing on which to judge the value. We still don't have any proof the test will help us help our students.

* A thoughtful, collaborative approach to curriculum development that meets the needs of all students while meeting expectations of CCSS.

Why? The Department of Education gave PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessments $300 million for development. The tests will impact what we teach because, likely what we test will be taught and what isn't tested will be dropped. This is an open invitation for CCSS aligned teaching materials produced by the corporations that designed the tests to take away our ability to make informed decisions on what to teach based on the developmental appropriateness and interests of our students. As professional educators, we know what is best for our students and need to be at the table whenever curriculum is discussed so educators are the ones who determine what is best for our students. If we continue to support CCSS, we need to look for innovative and exciting ways to integrate the standards into our teaching. More often than not, right now, MEA hears, "The joy has gone out of teaching."

* Resources, including necessary technology, be made available to all school districts and practitioners that ensure support at all levels for successful implementation of CCSS.

Why? At MEA's request we are receiving information about the implementation and assessments from members. Foremost, members say the implementation of CCSS is all over the place. Members in some districts feel they have successfully completed alignment of curriculum to CCSS. Others haven't started.

Here is just one comment we received: "Our school did a math pilot of SBAC. It was, as suspected, disastrous in many ways. No teachers were given any direction as to how to help students with difficulties logging on. Other than being sent limited directions from our tech people, no communication was had prior to the pilot. Not one student had an easy time with the questions. Most of the problems were high school level, multi-step (unnecessarily), and students were required to have memorized formulas that even adults do not know."

When we hear stories such as this one, we have to wonder what the agenda is behind CCSS. Without resources our schools will not meet levels for expected progress, our teachers will not demonstrate adequate student-growth and our students will see themselves as failures.

* Ongoing monitoring of CCSS and periodic opportunities to revise and refine CCSS.

Why? In the next couple of years, as the CCSS move from the abstract to reality for our educators, we need to have a voice in suggesting changes and alternatives when problems arise. There must be a system set up in which educators can share concerns with other professional colleagues, administrators and the Maine DOE. Without any system MEA fears we will become mired in education reforms that do nothing to improve public schools for our students.

To read the full MEA position on Common Core State Standards log on to:

MEA Benefits Trust

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